VOTING MY LIBERAL RELIGIOUS VALUES

VOTING MY LIBERAL RELIGIOUS VALUES

Rev. David Robins

November 4, 2018

This is a sermon ABOUT HOPE. I CERTAINLY NEED HOPE, AND YOU MAY ALSO.

THIS IS A SERMON ABOUT FACING EVIL  WITH TRANSFORMING LOVE, A MOST DIFFICULT RELIGIOUS VALUE FOR ME AND PERHAPS FOR YOU ALSO.

 

NEXT TUESDAY I WILL VOTE. I WILL VOTE FOR  CANDIDATES WHO I HOPE WILL BE FORCES FOR COMMON GOOD, AND INTOLERANT OF ACTS OF EVIL.  THERE HAVE BEEN DECADES WHEN MY MOTTO HAS BEEN, ‘I ALWAYS VOTE AND I ALWAYS LOSE, BUT I WILL KEEP ON VOTING.’

I FIRST REGISTERED TO VOTE IN 1971 WHEN 21 WAS THE LEGAL VOTING AGE. MY FIRST PRESIDENTIAL VOTE WAS IN 1972 WHEN GEORGE MCGOVERN WAS CRUSHED BY RICHARD NIXON.  EARLIER THAT YEAR, I HAD A MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE OF GOD AND A LIFE CHANGING DISCOVERY OF UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM. I ENTERED MEADVILLE/LOMBARD THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL. THERE, I DISCOVERED MANY LESSONS ABOUT RELIGION AND POLITICS. ONE, CONGREGATIONS WERE TIRED OF HEARING THEIR MINISTERS PREACH AGAINST THE WAR. TWO, MINISTERS AND CONGREGATIONS ARE GIVEN STRICT GUIDELINES BY THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE ABOUT WHAT THEY COULD AND COULD NOT SAY AND DO.

WHAT WE CAN DO IS REGISTER VOTERS, TALK ABOUT ISSUES AND VALUES, AND TREAT ALL CANDIDATES IN A NON-PARTISAN WAY.

WHAT WE CANNOT DO AS A CONGREGATION IS:

  • ENDORSE, OPPOSE OR FAVOR CANDIDATES IN WORSHIP, IN THE NEWSLETTER, OR FROM THE PULPIT
  • MAKE CANDIDATE CONTRIBUTIONS AS A CONGREGATION
  • DISTRIBUTE PARTISAN LITERATURE OR SIGNS
  • ASK CANDIDATES TO SIGN PLEDGES
  • INCREASE THE VOLUME OF CRITICISM OF SITTING OFFICIALS OR CANDIDATES
  • HIGHLIGHT THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CANDIDATES
  • ATTACK THE PERSONAL CHARACTERISTICS OF CANDIDATES RATHER THAN FOCUSING ON THE ISSUES.

 

UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM IS NUMERICALLY SMALL, AND WOULD PROBABLY NOT RAISE A SINGLE EYEBROW AT THE IRS EVEN IF I SENT THEM A COPY OF A SERMON IN WHICH I RANTED FOR 20 MINUTES ON A CANDIDATE ,  AND FOLLOWED THAT UP BY ENDORSING EVERY OTHER CANDIDATE OF THE OPPOSING PARTY BY NAME DOWN TO CEMETERY TRUSTEE. I TEND TO WANT TO FOLLOW THE LAW ON THIS ISSUE. THE CONSEQUENCES IF I DID NOT WOULD BEFALL THE CONGREGATION, NOT ME. THE CONGREGATION MIGHT LOSE ITS NON-PROFIT STATUS AND POSSIBLY IMPLICATE THE UUA, RECEIVE A HEFTY FINE, AND  USE UP OUR PRECIOUS FINANCIAL RESOURCES IN COURT. I SAY THIS IN THE FULL KNOWLEDGE THAT OF THE 2000 FUNDAMENTALIST CHRISTIAN MINISTERS WHO HAVE ENDORSED CANDIDATES FROM THE PULPIT SINCE 2008, IN ACTS OF CIVIL DISOBEDIANCE, ONLY ONE CONGREGATION HAS BEEN TAKEN TO COURT, AND NONE HAVE BEEN PUNISHED.

I FULLY UNDERSTAND THAT POLITICS IS A FIELD OF CONFLICT. BRINGING POLITICS INTO WORSHIP HOLDS THE UNPLEASANT POSSIBILITY OF BRINGING CONFLICT INTO SACRED TIME AND SPACE, WHICH CAN BE HURTFUL RATHER THAN HELPFUL. WE HAVE OTHER WAYS TO TALK POLITICS.

NEVERTHELESS, I WILL VOTE ON THE BASIS OF MY UU VALUES, PRINCIPLES AND TRADITIONS.  THAT IS NOT TO SAY THAT I HAVE ATTAINED FULL CLARITY ON THE ISSUES, THOUGH I AM PRETTY CLEAR ABOUT THE CANDIDATES.

ON THIS SUNDAY BEFORE MIDTERM ELECTIONS MANY OF US HAVE AN INTENSITY THAT CAN BE EXPRESSED IN THE WORDS FROM OUR PRINCIPLES AND TRADITIONS, OF BOTH A “RENEWAL OF THE SPIRIT AND A CHALLENGE TO POWERS AND STRUCTURES OF EVIL.”

 

I HAVE BEEN WRESTLING WITH MY UU VALUES, PRINCIPLES AND TRADITIONS.

I HAVE BEEN STRUGGLING TO AFFIRM “THE INHERENT WORTH AND DIGNITY OF EVERY PERSON,” BECAUSE THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY WHO ARE SO VIOLENT, SO MURDEROUS, SO RACIST, SO ANTI-SEMITIC, SO NATIONALISTIC, SO PREJUDICED AGAINST  OTHERS, THAT I QUESTION WHETHER THEY DESERVE SUCH RESPECT, AND I DOUBT THAT I AM RELIGIOUS ENOUGH A PERSON TO OFFER THAT RESPECT.

I HAVE BEEN LULLED INTO THINKING THAT PEOPLE, CULTURE, SOCIETY, POLITICS, ARE BASICALLY GOOD, JUST AND LOVING. THE EVIDENCE DOES NOT SUPPORT THIS BELIEF.

I HAVE ALSO BEEN WRESTLING WITH ONE OF OUR UU TRADITIONS: “TO CHALLENGE AND CONFRONT POWERS AND STRUCTURES OF EVIL WITH JUSTICE, COMPASSION, AND THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF LOVE.”

I HAVE REACQUAINTED MYSELF WITH PRESIDENT OBAMA’S FAVORITE THEOLOGIAN, REINHOLD NIEBUHR WHO SAID THAT HUMAN NATURE HAS THE CAPACITY FOR GOOD. BUT HUMANS ALSO HAVE THE ABILITY TO CORRUPT THE GOOD THROUGH PRIDE AND THE LUST FOR POWER. WHEN WE DO, WE DESTROY THE SOUL, THE SOCIAL FABRIC, AND ECONOMIC STABILITY.  THUS, JUSTICE MUST TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER RESPECT AND LOVE.

I BELIEVE IN MY CORE IN THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF LOVE,  BUT I QUESTION THE EFFICACY OF LOVE AND COMPASSION IN THE FACE OF EVIL.  FOR EVIL DOES NOT RESPECT LOVE AND JUSTICE. EVIL DOES NOT WILLINGLY SHARE POWER WITH LOVE AND JUSTICE. EVIL DOES NOT DOES NOT GRANT THE INHERENT WORTH AND DIGNITY OF PEOPLE. EVIL HAS NO EMPATHY AND NO PAUSE FOR THE SUFFERING OF OTHERS.

I DO NOT THINK THAT EVIL IS INHERENT, OR SUPERNATURAL. I THINK THAT EVIL IS IN THE ACT, AND THE IMPACT WHICH THAT ACT HAS UPON PEOPLE,  UPON THE INSTITUTIONS THAT CONSTITUTE OUR COMMON LIFE, AND UPON THE EARTH.  ANY CLAIM THAT DIVINE POWER OR EARTHLY POWER MUST INEVITABLY AND FINALLY OVERRULE EVIL DENIES THE REALITY OF EVIL AND ITS PERSISTENCE IN THE VERY MAKEUP OF HUMAN NATURE. WE DREAM OF DRIVING ACTS OF EVIL OUT OF EXISTENCE AND OUT OF POSSIBILITY, BUT FINAL OUTCOMES ARE BEYOND OUR VISION, BEYOND OUR RANGE OF CONTROL.

PERHAPS YOU READ, AS I DID, AN ARTICLE IN LAST SUNDAY’S BOSTON GLOBE ABOUT RESEARCHERS WHO STUDY EVIL PROFESSIONALLY. THEY DESCRIBE EVIL AS A “DARK TRIAD OF THREE ANTISOCIAL PERSONALITY TRAITS: NARCISSISM OR AGGRESSIVE SELF-PROMOTION; MACHIAVELLIANISM OR THE DESIRE TO CONTROL AND TO MANIPULATE THOSE AROUND YOU; AND CALLOUS, SELF-AGGRANDIZING , IMPULSIVE PSYCHOPATHY.”

THE RESEARCHERS SUGGESTED THAT THESE TRAITS HAVE BEEN USEFUL IN EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY, IN BUSINESS LEADERSHIP, AND IN WARTIME.

BECAUSE I AM A RELIGIOUS PERSON, AND THEOLOGICALLY ORIENTED, I CHOOSE TO USE THE WORD EVIL. BUT I KNOW THIS IS A VERY UNPOPULAR WORD FOR UU’S. I DO NOT BELIEVE IN A CONSPIRACY THEORY OF SUPERNATURAL EVIL, BUT I DO RECOGNIZE ACTS OF EVIL DRIVEN BY ACTS OF GREED, VIOLENCE, LUST FOR POWER, MANIPULATION OF INFORMATION, LIES, INCOME INEQUALITY, DISEMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN, AND SCAPEGOATING OF ETHNICITIES THROUGH RACIAL LAWS.

I AM NOT IN DESPAIR, AT LEAST NOT ALL THE TIME. I HAVE CREATED AN IMAGE OF HOPE AND ACTION. I IMAGINE GETTING INTO MY LITTLE BLUE KAYAK AND PADDLING FORWARD WITH HOPE. I WRITE SOME POSTCARDS FOR CANDIDATES I SUPPORT, MAKE SOME PHONE CALLS, CONTRIBUTE SOME MONEY FOR CANDIDATES. I ATTEND MEET THE CANDIDATES GATHERINGS AND LEARN ABOUT THE TWO REFERENDUMS ON THE BALLOT THIS YEAR TO MAKE CHANGES IN THE NH CONTITUTION.

I PADDLE MY KAYAK OF HOPE TO MY BOOKSHELVES AND PULL OUT KAREN ARMSTRONG’S BOOK AND RE-READ HER CHAPTER ON GOD OF THE REFORMERS. “COMPASSION IS A PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT VIRTUE.IT DEMANDS THAT WE GO BEYOND THE LIMITATIONS OF OUR EGOTISM, INSECURITY AND INHERITED PREJUDICE. (THE COMPASSION OF )  GOD WAS USED TO HELP PEOPLE TO CONCENTRATE ON THIS WORLD AND TO FACE UP TO UNPLEASANT REALITY.”

I RE-READ SECTIONS FROM MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. “INJUSTICE ANYWHERE IS A THREAT TO JUSTICE EVERYWHERE. THERE ARE THINGS IN OUR SOCIAL SYSTEM TO WHICH ALL OF US OUGHT TO BE MALAJUSTED. HATRED AND BITTERNESS CAN NEVER CURE THE DISEASE OF FEAR, ONLY LOVE CAN DO THAT. WE SHALL HEW OUT OF THE MOUNTAIN OF DESPAIR A STONE OF HOPE.”

I RETURN TO GANDHI :

“IF SOMEONE WITH COURAGE AND VISION CAN RISE TO LEAD IN NONVIOLENT ACTION, THE WINTER OF DESPAIR CAN, IN THE TWINKLING OF AN EYE, BE TURNED INTO THE SUMMER OF HOPE.”

I RE-READ MY BOOK BY THE UU PHILOSOPHER OF RELIGION HENRY NELSON WIEMAN ON THE SOURCE OF HUMAN GOOD.

“THE RELIGIOUS PROBLEM IS WHAT CAN TRANSFORM US IN SUCH A WAY AS TO SAVE US FROM THE DEPTHS OF EVIL AND BRING US TO THE GREATEST GOOD? ONLY CREATIVE INTERCHANGE CREATES AN APPRECIATIVE UNDERSTANDING OF THE ORIGINAL EXPERIENCE OF ONE ANOTHER.”

I SING AND HUM THE HYMNS IN OUR HYMNAL.  “I AM A GENTLE ANGRY PERSON, AND I AM SINGING FOR MY LIFE.”

I LOOK FOR READINGS IN OUR HYMNAL THAT INSPIRE ME, LIKE DOROTHY DAY, #560: “PEOPLE SAY, WHAT IS THE SENSE OF OUR SMALL EFFORT. THEY CANNOT SEE THAT WE MUST LAY ONE BRICK AT A TIME, TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME.”

PADDLING MY KAYAK OF HOPE, I IMAGINE THAT I MIGHT BE BRAVE ENOUGH TO RUSH FORWARD IN AN ACTIVE SHOOTER SITUATION. I PADDLE AND IMAGINE THAT I MIGHT BE BRAVE ENOUGH TO PRACTICE NON-VIOLENT COMMUNICATION WITH THOSE WHO VIRULENTLY DISAGREE WITH ME…..TO ASK THEM, “WHAT ARE YOUR FEARS?” I PRAY THAT WE CAN SAY OF THIS TIME WHAT ANDREW YOUNG SAID ABOUT THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT OF THE 1960’S  “WE CAME TO LOVE THE HELL OUT OF SEGREGATION AND RACISM AND INEQUALITY.”

I RECOGNIZE THAT OUR CIVIL RELIGION, OUR NONSECTARIAN NATIONAL FAITH IS DIVIDED AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN DIVIDED. ALONG WITH THE BILL OF RIGHTS, AND CALLS TO LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS, ….SLAVERY, RACISM AND THE OPRESSION OF WOMEN AND ETHNICITIES WAS BUILT INTO OUR CONSTSITUTION AND LAWS OVER 400 YEARS, AND REMAINS A PART OF THE FABRIC OF OUR CIVIL RELIGION. RACIAL EXCLUSION LAWS KEEP APPEARING OVER AND OVER THROUGH 300 YEARS OF OUR HISTORY. PREJUDICE, SCAPEGOATING AND DISCRIMINATION ARE BUILT INTO THE FABRIC OF OUR CIVIL RELIGION, AND SOMETIMES THEY DOMINATE. NEVERTHELESS, EVERY VOTE, EVERY VOICE,  CAN BEND THE ARC OF HISTORY TOWARD JUSTICE.

I WALK, I PRAY. I PADDLE. BUT I DO NOT PADDLE ALONE. I PADDLE WITH OTHER UU’S, WITH NEIGHBORS AND FRIENDS.

I VOTE, AND I ENCOURAGE YOU AND URGE YOU TO VOTE ALSO. IT IS THE ONE ACT THAT PEOPLE IN A DEMOCRACY MAY SHARE IN COMMON, AND THAT IS SIGNIFICANT AND IMPORTANT.

DOROTHY DAY, #560: “PEOPLE SAY, WHAT IS THE SENSE OF OUR SMALL EFFORT. THEY CANNOT SEE THAT WE MUST LAY ONE BRICK AT A TIME, TAKE ONE STEP AT A TIME.”

 

DON’T LET ANY DEFEATS DISCOURAGE YOU FOR TOO LONG. THIS IS OUR TIME, TOO. THIS IS YOUR TIME TO BE NONE OTHER THAN YOUR TRUE, AUTHENTIC SELF. YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BE HERE. YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO YOUR VOICE. WHEN HISTORIANS WRITE ABOUT THIS ERA, 50 OR 100 YEARS FROM NOW, LET THEM SAY THAT THIS WAS A TURNING POINT, A WATERSHED WHEN SUFFERING CHANNELED INTO NON VIOLENCE, TRANSFORMING LOVE, AND A VISION OF THE COMMON GOOD MADE ITS MARK.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *